Tuesday, December 17, 2013

THE LION'S NOEL, VI. Piglet's Little Paean, including "Piglet's Ephratah" by Leon Archibald

His stable is 

a Prince’s courte,
The cribbe His 

chaire of State;
The beastes 

are parcell of 

His pompe,
The wodden dishe, 

His plate.
Robert Southwell 

The Lion's Noël
A Book of Christmas Beasts

VI. Piglet's Little Paean

Spinning Pig

Chrisimas Day

There was a pig went out to dig,
     Chrisimas day, Chrisimas day,
There was a pig went out to dig
     On Chrisimas day in the morning.

There was a cow went out to plough,
     Chrisimas day, Chrisimas day,
There was a cow went out to plough
     On Chrisimas day in the morning.

There was a sparrow went out to harrow, 
     Chrisimas day, Chrisimas day,
There was a sparrow went out to harrow
     On Chrisimas day in the morning.

There was a sheep went out to reap,
     Chrisimas day, Chrisimas day,
There was a sheep went out to reap
    On Chrisimas day in the morning.

              Traditional Lancashire carol, England

There are many verses in this old carol. I selected a few and the version in the performance that follows has some others:

Voice and Concertina "There Was a Pig Went out to Dig"

Boar in a medieval bestiary

From "Hog at the Manger"

Shall hog with holy child converse?

How will it feel?

Jesu dear,

I lumber near.

        Norma Farber, 1910-1984


Bethlehem Ephratah

Piglet's Ephratah*


Today I am afraid--

not for my life, but for Japheth's.

But this human child knows not to fear!

I must know for him.

A pig grows up knowing

what he should fear.

In Bethlehem we fear Romans.


Both people and pigs fear Romans

(or those who lick the Roman's ear).

I must teach Japheth to be afraid because

the soldiers are hurting the children

with sharp shafts--

Japheth knows about cuts and sharps--

he understands that things can end--

children can end.

He understands




fragile thing

is life.

The soldiers used to laugh and toss him high.


they come to kill him!

I'll hide him in the pigsty!

Conceal him Good Mud!

Kind Straw!

Be his savior--as am I--


Japheth is my second friend.

I had never liked a human

until I met first friend.

Now he is gone.

He lived in the house at the back of the sty.

His mother was quiet; 

his father, gentle.

And he would smile

and rub behind my ear

and I kept him for my friend.

He was kind

and a little too wise.

And he had many animals

and children for friends.

It seemed even

the sky was his friend:

a remarkable star shone down upon the house 

at night

and impressive, kindly men

had followed the star to find him.

I remember the night those men came.

They passed near the sty to gain the house

and this curious pig followed them in.

I heard them say a wonderful word.

I heard them say Ephratah

and they meant this town.

They gave my friend heavy, shining gifts--

some smelled of spice--


Some of them glittered

like the fingers of the men.

When they left they said they had to go another way

and not return to Herod as he bid.

I think this Herod licks the Roman's ear.

Is it he who is the killing one?

My friend left soon after--

with his mother

and his father.

I'm glad he's gone--

I hope he's safe--

the soldiers would have killed him.

They are killing boys in my city--

in Ephratah.

(And I am haunted by a thought:

his kindly mother,

so helpless,

as the soldiers cut him with their shafts.)

I can't help weeping with joy!

With Japheth safely hid--

O Bethlehem Ephratah!--

one boy--

two boys will live!

      Leon Archibald, b. 1952

*Ephratah(ehf' ruh tah)  Hebrew: Fruitful, ancient name of Bethlehem

Flight into Egypt

But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, 
though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

                           Micah 5:2, Bible, King James Version

Behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying,
Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, 
and departed into Egypt.

                             Matthew 2: 13-14, Bible, King James Version

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.

Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 

In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

                           Matthew 2: 16-18, Bible, King James Version


Sam Pig, illustration by Cecil Leslie

Sam Pig and the Christmas Present

    In a small thatched cottage near the edge of the forest lived four young pigs--Tom, Bill, Ann and Sam, and with them, for much of the year, was their guardian Brock the Badger. The little pigs loved dear, kind Brock, and they looked up to him because of his strength and courage and because of his great wisdom.
     Winter had come early. By December the pond was frozen solid and the snow lay deep. Every morning when he awoke Sam Pig thought about Christmas Day. He looked at the snow, and he shivered a little as he pulled on his little trousers and ran downstairs. But the kitchen was warm and bright and a big fire burned in the hearth. Tom cooked the porridge and Ann set the table with spoons and plates, and Bill ran out to sweep the path or to find a log for the fire.
     "Good old Badger," thought Sam. "I will give him a nice Christmas present this year. I'll make him something to take back to his house in the woods when he goes for his winter sleep."
     Badger of course never retired before Christmas, but when the festival was over he disappeared for three months and left the little family alone.
     That was as far as Sam got. Ann was busy knitting a muffler for Badger. It was made of black and white sheep's wool, striped to match Badger's striped head. Bill the gardener was tending a blue hyacinth which he kept hidden in the wood-shed. Tom the cook had made a cake for Brock. It was stuffed with currants and cherries and almonds as well as many other things like honey-comb and ants' eggs. Only young Sam had nothing at all.
     There was plenty of time to make a present, he told himself carelessly, and he swept up the snow from the path and collected the small birds' walnut-shells in which he had left them morsels of food.
     "Have you a Christmas present for Badger?" asked Ann. "I have nearly finished my scarf, and Tom's cake is made, and Bill's hyacinth is in bud. What have you made, Sam?"
     "Nothing." confessed Sam. " I've been thinking and thinking, but I can't find anything. If I could knit a pair of stockings, or grow a cabbage, or make a pasty I should know what to give him, but I can't do nothing."
     "Anything," corrected Ann.
     "Nothing," insisted Sam. "I can only play my fiddle--"
     "And fall in the river and steal a few apples, and get lost and catch the wind--" laughed Ann. "Never mind. You shall share my scarf if you like, Sam, for you helped to find the sheep's wool and you got the holly-berries for me."
     Sam shook his head. "No. I won't share. I'll do something myself."
     He went out to the wood, trudging through the snow, looking for Christmas presents. In the holly-trees were scarlet clusters of berries, and the glossy ivy was adorned with black beads. The rest of the trees, except the yews and fir-trees, were bare, and they stood with boughs uplifted, and their trunks faintly smudged with snow. There wasn't a Christmas present anywhere. The willows, from which Badger had once made a boat, were smooth and ruddy, with never a parcel or packet or treasure among them.
     Then something waved in a thorn bush, something fluttered like a white flag, and Sam ran forward. The wind was rising and it made a curious moan and a whistle as it ruffled Sam's ears and made them ache. He stretched up to the little flag and found it was a feather. A feather! Sam had a thought! Perhaps the wind blew it to him, but there it was, a feather!
     "I'll make him a feather bed, and when he goes to his castle deep in the woods he will take it with him to lie on. Poor old Badger, sleeping alone on the hard ground. Yes, I'll make him a feather bed."
     When the birds came for their breakfast the next morning Sam spoke to them about it.
     "Can you spare a feather or two? I want to make a feather bed for old Badger's Christmas present," he told them.
     The birds shook their wings and dropped each a loose feather; they brushed and combed themselves and tossed little feathers to the ground. They passed the word round among the tree families, and other birds came flying with little feathers in their beaks for Sam Pig. A flock of starlings left a heap of glistening shot-silk, and the rooks came cawing from the bare elms with sleek black quills. The chattering magpies brought their black and white feathers, which Sam thought were like Badger's head. The jays came with their bright blue jewels, and the robins with scarlet wisps from their breasts. A crowd of titmice gave him their own soft little many-coloured feathers, and even the wood pigeons left grey feathers for Sam. He had so many the air was clouded with feathers so that it seemed to be snowing again. He gathered them up and filled his sack, and even then he had some over. He put the beautiful tiny feathers in his pocket, the red scraps from the robins, the blue petals of feathers from the titmice, the yellow atoms from the goldfinches and the emerald-blue gems from the kingfisher. These he wove into a basket as small as a nutshell, for Sister Ann, and inside he put some mistletoe pearls. Ann would like this, he knew.
     On Christmas Day Sam came downstairs to the kitchen, calling "A merry Christmas" to everybody. He didn't hang up his stocking of course because he had not stockings, and he didn't expect any presents either. Badger was the one who got the presents, old Badger who was the friend and guardian of the four pigs. It was at Christmas time they made their gifts to thank him for his care. So all the little pigs came hurrying downstairs with their presents for him.
     There stood Badger, waiting for them, with a twinkle in his eye. Ann gave him the black and white muffler with its little scarlet berries interwoven.
     "Here's a muffler for cold days in the forest, Brock," said she.
     "Just the thing for nights when I go hunting," said Brock, nodding his head and wrapping the muffler round his neck.
    Then Bill gave him the little blue hyacinth growing in a pot.
     "Here's a flower for you, Brock, which I've reared myself."
     "Thank you, Bill. It's the flower I love," said Brock and he sniffed the sweet scent.
     Then Tom came forward with the cake, which was prickly with almonds and seed from many a plant.
     "Here's a cake, Brock, and it has got so many things inside it, I've lost count of them, but there's honey-comb and eggs."
     "Ah! You know how I like a slice of cake," cried Brock, taking the great round cake which was heavy as lead.
     Then little Sam came, with the feather bed on his back. For ticking he had used some clothe that Ann had kept when she replaced his bedroom curtains. He had embroidered it with the letter B made of the black and white magpie feathers.
     "For you to sleep on in your castle," said he.
     "Sam! Sam!" everybody cried. "And you kept it secret! That's what you were doing every morning when the birds came for their breakfast! We thought there seemed to be a lot of feathers on the ground!"
     Badger lay down on the little bed and pretended to snore. He was delighted with the warm comfortable present from little Sam Pig.
     "Never mind the weather but sleep upon a feather," said he. "I shall sleep like a top through the fiercest gale when I lie on this little bed."
     They had breakfast, with a lashing of treacle on their porridge from the tin which Ann had kept for festivals. Then Sam hurried out to feed the birds and to thank them again for their share in Badger's Christmas. He carried a basket full of walnut-shells stuffed with scraps, and he found hosts of birds hopping about waiting for him.

     But when he stepped into the garden he gave a cry of surprise, for in the flower bed grew a strange little tree.
     "Look! Look!" he called. "Ann! Bill! Tom! Badger! Come and look! It wasn't growing there last night. Where has it come from? And look at the funny fruit hanging on it! What is it?"
     Ann, Bill and Tom followed him out and stared in astonishment at the small fir-tree, all hung with pretty things. There were sugar pigs with pink noses and curly tails of string; and sugar watches with linked chains of white sugar, and chocolate mice.  There were rosy apples and golden oranges, and among the sweet dainties were glittering icicles and hoarfrost crystals.
     "Where has it come from? How did it grow here?" the pigs asked, and they turned to Badger. "Is it magic?" they asked. "Will it disappear? Is it really real?"
     "It's solid enough, for the tree has come from the woods, but the other things will disappear fast enough I warrant when you four get near them."
     "But where did you find such strange and lovely things?" persisted Ann, staring up with her little blue eyes. "Where? Where? From fairyland, Badger?"
     "I went to the Christmas fair in the town. I walked up to a market stall and bought them with a silver penny I had by me," said Brock.
     "But did nobody say anything to you?" asked Sam. "How did you escape?"
     "They were all so busy they didn't notice a little brown man who walked among them. They didn't bother about me on Christmas Eve. Miracles happen Christmas Eve, and perhaps I was one of them."
     Then Sam Pig brought the little feather basket and hung it among the icicles for his sister Ann. She was enchanted by it, and strung the mistletoe pearls round her neck.
     Everybody shared the Christmas tree, for the birds flew down to its branches and sang a Christmas carol in thanks for their breakfasts, and Sam sat underneath and sang another carol in thanks for their feathers.
     So it was a very happy Christmas all round.

            Alison Uttley, 1884-1976
            From Adventures of Sam Pig

Here ends
Piglet’s Little Paean

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